Streaming shows and movies continues to gain popularity, and right now, there’s a plethora of devices that make it easier than ever to stream content to your TV. We’ve created the following guide that offers readers a brief overview of some of the top streaming gadgets available today to help you pick out just the right one based on your needs.
In 2017, Roku released five versions of its popular streaming stick. These devices begin at $29.99 for the Express model, and range up to $99 for the set top box version, the Ultra 4K. With multiple price points, this means that there’s a Roku device that can get users up and streaming regardless of their budget.
Advantages of Choosing a Roku
The advantages of the Roku are that it offers support for all the main streaming content providers, including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, so that you can stream content directly through the Roku to the TV.
1080p video is supported across all the devices. 4K, HDR and HD are supported in the Roku Ultra and Roku Streaming Stick Plus models. If your TV has A/V rather than HDMI, the Roku Express Plus is your only easy option to connect your older TV to a streaming device.
All five versions are compatible with Android and iOS devices. It’s also fairly easy to use the Roku App to stream media like music, photos and videos from your smartphone to your TV.
Like the Roku, Google ChromeCast offers a range of streaming devices and price points. All the models connect wirelessly, and, support 1080p. The Chromecast Ultra can connect via Ethernet as well, just like the Roku Ultra.
One of the areas where ChromeCast models outshine their competition is that their disc shape allows them to lie flat against the back of the TV, making it easy to conceal them.
Rather than a standalone device, they are really designed to be an interface that allows your TV to easily connect to any smartphone, PC or mobile device, offering a seamless experience when casting content. To stream media content stored on your computer or home network, you will need to use a third-party app like Plex or Infuse, which is available with Infuse Pro.
The basic ChromeCast model is available for $35, but the ChromeCast Ultra model really outshines its competitors when it comes to price. It enables users to stream 4K, HD and HDR for just $69!
The ChromeCast models do have a few drawbacks when compared with Roku and other streamers. For one, they do not come with a remote, or a user interface, so you will need to use your smartphone or device to control it, and search through individual apps to find the Google Cast button to be able to stream some channels.
This is a real drawback if you subscribe to Amazon Prime and enjoy watching Amazon Originals and other videos since Amazon’s mobile app doesn’t support GoogleCast. Still, there are many other channels that you can stream quite easily, including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and content from the Google Play Store. You can also stream content directly from your PC’s Chrome browser onto your TV via the device!
Currently, there are two models for streaming via Apple, the Apple TV and Apple TV 4K. Regular Apple TV starts at $149, and Apple TV 4K comes in 32G and 64G options for $179 and $199, making these devices the most expensive streamers on the market.
Who Will Enjoy Apple TV Best?
Both models are best for users who currently own Apple iPhones and other Apple Devices since they are designed to work best with other Apple products. Both models come with Siri remotes, which offers voice control and search via Apple’s popular voice assistant, Siri.
Like other streaming devices, users can access apps to stream popular channels like Netflix and Hulu, as well as Amazon Prime Video. Apple AirPlay makes it possible to beam content from your other Apple devices, like your favorite photos and videos from your iPhone, and watch them on your TV.
Apple TV 4K supports 4K, HDR and HD and can also act as a command hub for your compatible smart home devices. This makes it possible to use Siri to complete several home security tasks, from locking and unlocking your doors, to turning on the lights, controlling your thermostat and accessing remote camera feeds.
Apple TV is the most expensive streamer on the market, but, it does offer a host of additional features not offered by its competitors. While it’s the perfect device for Apple fans, its hefty price tag makes little sense if users don’t already own quite a few Apple products.
4.Amazon Fire TV
The Amazon Fire TV stick with Alexa Voice Remote is available for $39.99 and supports up to 1080p. It plugs into the TV via HDMI, and connects wirelessly to your Internet. For $69, you can get Amazon Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD, and enjoy 4K, HDR and HD streaming for the same price as the Google ChromeCast Ultra. This device plugs into your HDMI, but also uses a USB adapter for power. Just $89 allows you to bundle Amazon Fire TV with 4K Ultra and an HD Antenna to pick up over-the-air broadcasts of your favorite local channels.
Where Amazon Fire Stick and Amazon Fire TV Ultra Really Shine
Probably the best feature of the Amazon’s two streamers is that they can be controlled by Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, and work well with other Amazon devices, like Amazon’s Echo smart speaker.
Users can ask Alexa to begin playing specific programs or channels, control their compatible smart home appliances and, can even make orders, by telling Alexa what to buy, all while watching their favorite programs.
Who hasn’t curled up on the couch with their loved ones, and, just as they sat down, remembered they forgot to turn off the lights or order takeout? Dimming your lights, turning up the heat, ordering pizza and finding something great to watch on TV are all problems you can resolve simply by asking Alexa to do it all.
These streamers offer access to thousands of channels from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime videos and much more! They are also compatible with Amazon devices that utilize Alexa skills, which offers support for many surround sound systems from other manufacturers, including Dolby Atmos surround sound systems, which are currently unsupported by Apple TV streamers. If you are already an Amazon Prime user, and rely on Alexa heavily, then the Fire Stick or Fire TV Ultra are probably the best streamers for you.
Which is the Best Streaming Device Based on Your Needs?
Picking the best streamer for you will basically come down to which operating system most of your existing devices already use, Apple, or Amazon. If you have several devices made by different manufacturers then a Roku or ChromeCast will be your best choice, with the edge going to Roku if you need the extra control and ease of use that a remote and built in interface offer.
What about you? What streaming devices have you tried in the past, and which do you currently use? What’s been your favorite to date? What are some features that you wish manufacturers would add to streaming devices? Please share your thoughts with us, and your fellow readers, in the comments section below. Your feedback helps us make our site the best place to turn when searching for advice about your smart, digital lifestyle!